Taken after my early morning religious class and before school, no doubt while waiting for the family to gather for family prayer, maybe 7 am, maybe circa 1997.  The specifics aren’t important; this happened every day.  That is my older sister lying on top of me.

Sarah

One day when I was 17 and in eleventh grade, during orchestra class, I went into the music office, called my mom, and said, “You need to give me a reason to stay.  Otherwise I’m coming home.”

I was done with the whole hullaballoo of high school.  Yearbook, physics, honors societies, the musical, the junior banquet, et cetera et cetera.  I didn’t want to be there anymore.  I was tired.  I was bored.  I wanted to go home.

I expected, of course, for my mother to say, “Stick it out.  You can do it.  School is important.  Education is good.  We love you.”  That’s what I expected.  Instead, she said, “Call me back in ten minutes.”

I called her back in ten minutes.  She said: “I want to know the average shoe size of the boys in your classes and the average shoe size of the girls.  Two averages—one for the boys, one for the girls.  I want to know them by the end of the day.”

I stayed at school that day.  I totally ignored my teachers, but I stayed at school.  And the rest of the year.  I even graduated from high school, college, other things.  In fact, today I’m both literate and employed.  (FYI: The average shoe size of my classes was 8.2 for the girls; for the boys, it was 10.4 with Bobby K. and 10.2 without Bobby K.)

I’ve retold this story a dozen times because I love it so much.  What a good mom, I thought, to have known me so well, to have answered like that.

Then, once, I found myself telling the story in front of my mom, so I asked her, “Mom, how did you come up with the shoe size thing?  It was perfect for me.”

She said, “Sarah, what did you think I was doing during those ten minutes?”  I didn’t know.  Baking bread, I’d thought.  Maybe finishing mopping the kitchen floor.

“I was praying,” she said.  “I prayed.”

What a good mom.

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